The New Horizons Spacecraft has called home after the historic Pluto Flyby and all is set to see photos of Pluto with unseen details this afternoon.
New Horizons is alive. The spacecraft made the planned call after its Pluto Flyby. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft phoned home just before 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday to tell the mission team and the world it had accomplished the historic first-ever flyby of Pluto. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has flown by Pluto at the shortest distance of its mission.
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At about 7:49am ET yesterday the New Horizons spacecraft was only 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) above the surface. It took 9 years and 3 billion miles to get to this.
NASA will reveal the first Pluto photos from today's flyby at 3pm ET.
“I know today we’ve inspired a whole new generation of explorers with this great success, and we look forward to the discoveries yet to come,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “This is a historic win for science and for exploration. We’ve truly, once again raised the bar of human potential.”
The scheduled communication of New Horizons was a 15-minute series of status messages beamed back to mission operations at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland through NASA’s Deep Space Network. New Horizons had been instructed to spend the day gathering the maximum amount of data, and not communicating with Earth until it was beyond the Pluto system.
“With the successful flyby of Pluto we are celebrating the capstone event in a golden age of planetary exploration,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “While this historic event is still unfolding --with the most exciting Pluto science still ahead of us -- a new era of solar system exploration is just beginning. NASA missions will unravel the mysteries of Mars, Jupiter, Europa and worlds around other suns in the coming years."
Pluto is the first Kuiper Belt object visited by a mission from Earth. New Horizons will continue on its adventure deeper into the Kuiper Belt, where thousands of objects hold frozen clues as to how the solar system formed.
“Following in the footsteps of planetary exploration missions such as Mariner, Pioneer and Voyager, New Horizons has triumphed at Pluto,” says New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “The New Horizons flyby completes the first era of planetary reconnaissance, a half century long endeavor that will forever be a legacy of our time."
New Horizons is collecting so much data it will take 16 months to send it all back to Earth.
New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe that was launched as part of NASA's New Frontiers program. Built by the Applied Physics Laboratory and the Southwest Research Institute, with a team led by S. Alan Stern, the spacecraft was launched to study Pluto, its moons and the Kuiper Belt, performing flybys of the Pluto system and one or more Kuiper Belt Objects. The goal of the mission is to understand the formation of the Pluto system, the Kuiper Belt, and the transformation of the early Solar System.
The spacecraft will study the atmospheres, surfaces, interiors and environments of Pluto and its moons. It will also study other objects in the Kuiper Belt. Find more on the historic space mission background on Wikipedia and on the New Horizons Mission page on NASA.
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The Pluto images everybody is waiting for will be revealed at 3pm ET on NASA TV.